Making a Plan for my First Mother’s Day Without Mom

I’m planning ahead this time. My birthday took me by surprise– I was so emotional the day before and the day of. I was missing Mom and at the brink of tears much of the time. I didn’t think my own birthday would hit me that way. But I’ve been somewhat dreading my first Mother’s Day without Mama. And now it’s nearing like an ominous black cloud.

So I thought I’d take some time to think and pray and prepare myself. And here’s what I’m thinking I’ll do, God willing…

I’ll remember that grief will be what it will be when it chooses to be. I can’t control if or when the waves of emotion hit.  I’m guessing Mother’s Day will be especially hard, but I could be wrong. Some days I can talk about Mom and feel strong. Other days I’ve had upbeat songs on comedy shows push me to tears! I just don’t know. But it’s okay. The Bible says, “There is a time to weep…” If it’s time, who am I to say it isn’t? It’s okay to cry when I need to. My friends and family will understand.

I’ll go to church, even though I know they will be talking about moms. I’ll go to worship God and to love my church family. I’ll remind myself that I still do have a mother, she’s just in heaven before I am. She trusted and loved Jesus and is with Him now having the best Mother’s Day she’s ever had!

I will take time to be grateful for the wonderful mother God blessed me with and for all the sweet memories we made together. I’ll look at some of our old photos. Maybe I’ll sing some of our favorite songs or write a letter to her. Maybe I’ll eat Pecan Delights because they were her favorites.

I will take time to enjoy being a mother and grandma. I will cherish whatever moments I have with my family. I will hug my grand-babies as much as they’ll allow and tolerate. I will kiss their chubby cheeks and delight in their charming ways. I will listen to my adult children and appreciate the people they have grown to be. I’ll even try to believe the sweet things their cards say. I will soak in the joy of seeing them together and feeling their hugs and love.

If weather permits, I plan to spend some time outside relaxing in sunshine and nature. I’ll picture how Mama brought me a small bouquet of lilacs and crab apple blossoms about twenty years ago, when my husband and I lost a baby to miscarriage. I found such comfort in those blooms grown in Mom’s own yard and picked by her own hand. I’ll pick my own bouquet and bury my nose in them and remember Mama’s love and thoughtfulness.

I’ll take some time to pray for others who are missing their Mama’s too. And I’ll pray for those who are struggling with other losses and hurts. I’ll pray for a mom I know who just lost her teenage daughter to suicide– a pain I can’t even imagine. I’ll pray for a dear mom friend who recently lost her own mother to cancer and now is facing her own scary cancer diagnosis with such faith and courage. I’ll pray for a young mom I know who is battling serious and debilitating health challenges. I’ll lift up family and friends to our  Abba Father who loves us all.

I’ll remind myself to depend on God’s grace. God gave me grace to get through more than eight years of Mom’s declining with Alzheimer’s. He gave me grace to keep her in her home and help care for her as she was fading away. He gave me grace to kiss her goodbye and sit down with my Dad and tell him myself that she had passed. He gave me grace and strength to do and bear things I never would have believed I could handle.

He will give me grace for each day, each hour, each moment of mourning that is yet to come. “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'” 2 Corinthians 12:9a (NKJV)

And finally, I plan to visit my Dad. And if I’m not choking up too much to speak, I want to tell him, “Thank you for picking such a wonderful woman to marry. She was an amazing mama and I’m forever blessed!”

cropped-img107.jpg

Featured Image -- 1131

Looking for Blessings in the Shadow of Mourning

I’ve been ready to cry on and off all day. And it’s a little confusing.

Today is the birthday of one of my mama’s brothers. She had eight brothers and two sisters. Now four of her siblings are still with us on this earth. Uncle Don lives in the deep south, where Mama was raised. I haven’t seen him for probably nine years, separated as we are by over a thousand miles. We don’t talk on the phone. And though I send Christmas cards most years, he never does.

But I’ve always been so fond of him. He is such a sweet man, tall and thin and cheerful. He has such a soothing southern accent and has always been so gentle and kind. And today, I can’t think about him without choking up. And I’m trying to figure out why. I have shed tears often enough for aunts and uncles who have passed on. But he is living, and healthy as far as I know, so this is new territory for me.

I’m guessing it’s another shadow of mourning. Because I can’t picture Uncle Don without also seeing Mom, younger and full of life and smiling and laughing. She so loved her family. She would visit whenever she got the chance, even if it meant sleeping in a leaky tent to get there. And she would call them, before free long distance was ever an option.

But now Mama is gone. One aunt and uncle came to her memorial service, but the others couldn’t. And they are so far away. I wonder if I’ll see them again this side of heaven. And I guess a part of me feels like if I could hug them, I would be hugging Mama again. And I type this through tears I don’t quite understand.

I tried calling Uncle Don to say happy birthday. I thought Mama would like that. But he didn’t answer and didn’t have voice mail set up either. It’s probably just as well because I think I would have burst into tears and he would have wondered what crazy woman was on the phone with him.

Oh, this road of grieving is full of surprises. I’m thankful I’m not walking it alone. I have family and friends who care and who listen. And Jesus is with me, too. And He is the one who said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (NKJV).

I find comfort in His Word and in prayer. I find comfort in spending time with His people and in reading the messages and cards people have sent me. I have comfort in knowing that Mama is with Him now and that I will see her again and for always.

I have comfort in knowing that Mama has loving siblings that miss her here on earth, and others that are keeping her company in Heaven.

And I take comfort in knowing that Jesus, too, wept. And that He never said, “Don’t mourn.” But He did say that I’ll find blessing and comfort when I do.

louisiana-2

Christmas Mourning

     I’m missing Mama so much today. Having a day of tears in between trying to get some things done. It is such a strange mix to have Christmas and mourning together. But how much deeper would our grieving be if we had never had Christmas and all that it means. I can’t imagine.
     So I call Social Security and wait on hold for forty minutes to tell them Mama has passed, as I’m surrounded by boxes and gifts that need to be wrapped. And I tuck thank you notes, for meals and memorial gifts, into Christmas cards. And I open an envelope of death certificates that came in the same mail with a mix of sympathy cards and Christmas greetings.
     And I miss Mama. I think about our last week or so together. The last way that Mama really communicated to me, when she had lost her ability to speak, was holding onto my hand. A few days before she died she still had such strength. She would grip my hand so tightly it would almost hurt. Sometimes I’d have to move and pull my hand away for a minute, and it was actually difficult to do. I marveled at her strength.
    And then I missed it, that last day or so, when her hand no longer squeezed mine. I’d slip my hand under hers, so I could feel like she was touching me. And I’d hold her hand, but receive no pressure back.
     This is a tough Christmas. But I keep reminding myself of one of the last things Mama said to my daughter, “God is here. He is bigger.” I say that to myself often these days.
     And I was wondering what the last words she said to me were, that were responsive. So I just looked back at some notes… On December first I had said, “I love you, Mama.”
And Mama had answered, “I know that.”
     And I smile through tears and am thankful.
11781653_912397942164770_3513597569939539504_n[1]
IMG_0800
558334_10200554836459969_444655354_n2.jpg

Mourning Mama

My precious mama was welcomed into heaven Monday morning. She passed on at home and in her own bed. My daughter, Annie, and I were with her when she breathed her last, and she left us with a gentle smile on her face looking more peaceful than I’ve seen her in years. We miss her already, but take comfort in picturing her surrounded by loved ones who have journeyed on ahead of her and in knowing she is in the presence of our Lord.

Meanwhile, I’m stumbling along here on earth, trying to adjust to life without her. I’m concerned about Daddy, suddenly in a much quieter home, without the coming and going of all who were caring for Mama.

People ask me how I am, and I think I’m doing better than I would expect. I asked my husband if this was all God’s grace or if I was still in shock. He said, “I think it’s the David factor.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know,” he said.  “David was praying and fasting that God would spare his son, but when his son died David got up off the ground and ate and was better.” (2 Samuel 12:15-23)

David’s servants were surprised and asked him about it. “And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.'” (Samuel 12:22-23, NKJV)

And it hit me how insightful Jeff was of my feelings. I have spent years praying and fretting over and caring for Mama. And the last week of her life had been so intense. I had slept with her all but one of the evenings. I had been with her most of each day. I had prayed and hoped and cried. I had called the nurses over and over and followed their instructions.

I had done all I knew to do for Mama and  had tried to make her comfortable. I hoped and prayed I had done it all right. I held her hand and sang to her. I read the Bible to her. I brushed her hair and rubbed her back. I cuddled with her and told her how much I loved her.

mama-in-bed

mama-and-annie

15337656_10211859460628508_7808597532983961028_nHospice kept warning me that we were losing her. But part of me was in denial. And I would keep finding reasons to hope.

And then she was gone.

I sent out the news. Family came over. Friends and relatives messaged and called. Annie and I changed Mama into her pink dress. She looked so beautiful. Papers were signed. I watched as Mama was rolled away from her home and left us for the last time. Oh sweet Mama.

And now I’m learning more about grief. Most of the time it feels like this weight on my heart. I feel close to tears more often than not, but am still functioning okay. My family is watching out for me and doing the cooking and shopping, in between meals kindly given us.

I’m trying to manage my responsibilities. Dad is my new caregiving concern. We are trying to make sure he’s getting enough company. He loved his sweetheart, as he called her, so much and seems so fragile now.

I sat down with my prayer list this morning. And I came to Mom’s name and puzzled over the fact that I didn’t need to pray for her anymore. She is with Jesus now. Everything is perfect for her. So I prayed through tears that Jesus would give her a hug for me and tell her how much I love her.

After lunch I thought I’d better make more progress on my delayed Christmas shopping. I looked at my list and saw Mom’s name and burst into tears. I know she will be having an amazing Christmas this year, but I was struck that I couldn’t give her anything on this earth again.

God understands all my feelings.

“I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother.” (Psalm 35:14b, NKJV)

He knows there is a special mourning for our mothers.

But what a sweet comfort to know that Mama is with Jesus. And with her own mama and daddy and sister. She is seeing friends and grandparents. She is pain free and clear of mind. She is having the best Christmas ever.

And someday we will all be together again. And for eternity. Because of Jesus and all that Christmas means.

mom-and-christmas

God is Here

It’s been a tough week. On Saturday we thought maybe God was taking Mama home to Him. She wouldn’t wake up no matter what we did. She was unresponsive. She was so cold. Her breathing was erratic, with long, scary gaps. I was sending messages to people asking for prayer. I was comforting my crying daughter and trying to stay calm myself.

But after many hours she did wake up! And she ate a very late supper. And we all exhaled a big breath and smiled. We hadn’t lost her. Not yet. We could savor some more cuddles. We could still hold her hand and feel her squeeze back in response once again.

The next day, Sunday morning, Mama told my daughter, “God is here.”

Annie answered, “Yes, He’s here.”

Mama said, “He is bigger.”

And we continue to take comfort in those precious words. Because even though Mama rarely seems to know who we are anymore, if at all, she knows that God is here. God is with her. God is with us. And He is bigger. Bigger than Alzheimer’s. Bigger than our pain and sorrow. Bigger than our stress and worries and fears.

God is bigger.

I’m so thankful Mama knows this. I’m so thankful God continues to teach us through the few words Mama says these days.

Other concerns and stresses weigh down on us too. Our prayer list is long. This is a challenging season of life as we oversee the care of three elderly parents, one who lives with us. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and cry and call out for help and prayer.

And I feel the comfort of God in kind words and offers from friends. In family members who step in and help. In devotional passages and Bible verses I read. Like one I read today…

“If I say, ‘My foot slips,’ Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” Psalm 94:18-19 (NKJV)

Yesterday I cuddled Mama before supper, “Mama, it’s me…Cheryl.” She repeated my name so clearly! I rarely hear her say my name and often it sounds slurred. But yesterday she said it clearly twice! “You said my name, Mama! Thank you!”

She answered, “Yes, Ma’am.” Which made me smile even more and gave a nod to her Southern upbringing. I’m grateful for this gift of hearing Mama say my name again. And especially for the pricelessness of hearing her speak of God’s presence.

God is here. He is bigger.

GOD is here. God IS here. God is HERE!

And He is bigger!

11781653_912397942164770_3513597569939539504_n[1]

Are You Happy?

I was feeding my mom a meal the other day and I asked her, “Mama, are you happy?”

She turned her head to face me and looked me directly in the eyes and then abruptly and very loudly shouted, “NO-OOO!”

I couldn’t help laughing in the moment, at her bold, startling reaction. But now I feel like shouting the same thing. Though we’ve had some sweet blessings lately, it has been a very stressful time. And we don’t see anything changing for the better soon. In fact we mostly see dark clouds that hint at worse things to come.

And if anyone asked me right now if I was happy, and if I answered them frankly, I would want to shout with Mama, “NO-OOO!”

No, I’m not happy. This is such a hard time. I feel like life is heavy right now, and news from many directions is depressing. I know I have so much to be grateful for, but life is changing, and more sacrifices are required. And I’m so tired.

I know I have more help than so many people. And I feel guilty complaining. And I wonder where my faith is. And I ask God what He is teaching me.

I open up my Bible and read…

I pour our my complaint before Him; I declare Him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path. (Psalm 142:2-3, NKJV)

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite. (Psalm 147:3-5, NKJV)

The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy. (Psalm 147:11, NKJV)

And I find comfort. Because I have a Lord I can pour out my complaints and troubles to. He knows when I’m overwhelmed. He knows the paths I’m on and the ones to come, and He will be there with me. Guiding me. Guiding us.

We have a Lord that is compassionate and heals the brokenhearted. A God so mighty that He knows the name of each star He created, and the name of each wounded servant of His on earth. And He binds our wounds.

And as we look to Him with trust and hope, He is pleased that we are depending on Him. He is pleased when we hope in Him for mercy and grace for each day. He is pleased when we realize we can not get through this on our own, but have faith that He is with us and that He will preserve us and keep us and sustain us.

And someday when this hard time is over, because we know this too shall pass, we will be stronger for having lived through it. And we can declare His truth and love with greater boldness for having been held up by it in the storms.

Earlier today my daughter showed me a video she had made of Mama some time back. She asked Mom, “Are you happy?”

And with a very grouchy voice and tone, Mom had shouted, “Yes, I’m happy!”

Annie asked again, “Grandma, are you happy?”

And with a slightly less grim tone Mama shouted, “I’m happy…all the day!”

I can’t honestly say that I’m happy all the day. This is a tough time of life. But I KNOW that Jesus is with me all the day. And I know that He won’t leave me. And I know that He will give grace and mercy enough for each moment as I hope in Him.

13939596_10210636372012057_777758801160137239_n

 

 

 

 

Have Faith

Being a caregiver has taught me, among many other lessons, that God has a sense of humor. And He often sends me a smile when I need one.

And I’ve needed them a lot lately. Because caregiving is hard. It’s stressful. It can be grueling.

The last few weeks have been especially tough. My daughter, Annie, and I feel the weight of Mama’s care and all the decisions and work and pressure that surround that. And my Dad has strong opinions and is grieving as he is slowly losing his beloved wife.

And sometimes the stress of it all clashes loudly and we say things we don’t mean and emotions pour out in strong words and flowing tears. And I cry out to God, “Lord, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are upon You!”

And then we pray. And we apologize. And God speaks wisdom through my husband. Calming wisdom.  And we are learning to walk in that wisdom, but stumbling along on the way.

As new challenges come up we have begun to tell each other, “It will be okay.” And “Have faith in God.” And we look for the next wise step to take.

Yesterday, we were having another challenge. Our caregiving agency had assigned a brand new caregiver without giving her any training with Mom yet. They usually have a new person shadow an experienced caregiver first. Thankfully, Annie was available to be over with Mom at the same time, or it just wouldn’t have worked.

Anyway, the good news is that according to Annie, the new caregiver has great potential! And when she was introducing herself to Dad, who is hard of hearing, Dad said, “Fay? Your name is Fay?”

And she answered, “No. Faith. Like faith in God.”